Ventura to Ojai on the Pacific Surfliner
Imagine riding from the ocean into the mountains, all on a gentle off-road bike path. Meet the Ventura-Ojai Trail, where you can start the day by watching surfers catching waves and end it in an artsy town nestled in the mountains. As an added bonus, it’s easily accessible by Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner.
We first discovered the Ventura-Ojai Trail when we were living in Los Angeles and looking for car-free ways to escape the city. At the time, we were amazed that this gem existed – and now, even after traveling all over the world by bike, it still ranks as one of our most favorite routes.
The Ventura-Ojai Trail is a paved multi-use path that runs for 15 miles between the communities of Ventura and Ojai, roughly two hours West of LA. It climbs up the hills at a gentle grade, separated from all motorized traffic, making it an incredible route for a first bike tour or a family trip or simply slowing down.
Start in Ventura
One of the best things about the Ventura-Ojai Trail is that it’s accessible without a car; in fact, the Pacific Surfliner stops less than a mile from the start of the trail. Simply reserve a free space for your bike when you book your ticket, then roll your bike and all your gear directly on the designated car when the train arrives.
As we rolled onto the train on our most recent visit, we were greeted by a conductor at the door of the train. “Laura? Russ?” he said, looking at the device in his hand that told him to expect two people with bikes. He checked us in and we parked our bikes in the designated bike area, leaning them against each other and belting them in for safety.
In Ventura, we unhooked our bikes and rolled off the train. We met up with our friends at Ocean Air Cycles, fueled up on tacos from a local taqueria, then hit the trail. It was a quintessential sunny California day and we enjoyed leisurely riding up into the foothills.
End in Ojai
Winding our way up the hill, we passed oil derricks and small farms, several public parks and even a fish habitat restoration project. Sometimes we were under a thick canopy of Oak trees, and sometimes the trail would open up and provide an incredible view of the river valley.
Riding into Ojai this way always feels like we’re coming in through some secret verdant back entrance. The trail crosses the highway and winds through the neighborhood. Before the “official” end of the trail, there is a left turn into Libbey Park. We always go this way, because it takes us right into the heart of downtown, a perfect place to get off the bikes and find some lunch and ice cream.
We walked through the Ojai Farmers Market and stocked up on locally-grown tangerines (a variety known as “Ojai pixies”) and locally-roasted coffee. We stopped into the Mob Shop, a friendly bike shop offering a wealth of information about places to ride. Full from lunch and armed with cue sheets, we headed off to our hotel. Ojai is a great cycling destination because it’s surrounded by incredible places to ride – and also because most (if not all) of the lodging properties are bike-friendly. Some properties, like the Ojai Rancho Inn, even have their own fleet of cruiser bikes for guests.
A True Gem
After a few days in Ojai, riding the popular Sulphur Mountain loop and trail running along Shelf Road, we headed back to Ventura, enjoying the trail in the other direction. Taking a bike vacation can seem daunting sometimes, but the Ventura-Ojai Trail removes a lot of the guess work. Even though it’s not in our backyard anymore, we still make a point of riding the trail every time we visit. After all, what’s not to love about coasting downhill after a relaxing weekend in the mountains, and rolling straight onto the train car that’ll effortlessly whisk you home?